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The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization$
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Jasper Bernes

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780804796415

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804796415.001.0001

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John Ashbery’s Free Indirect Labor

John Ashbery’s Free Indirect Labor

Chapter:
(p.64) 2 John Ashbery’s Free Indirect Labor
Source:
The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization
Author(s):

Jasper Bernes

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804796415.003.0003

The early poems of John Ashbery must be read as a meditation on the plight of labor, particularly white-collar labor, in the postwar United States. Beginning with an early poem, “The Instruction Manual” (1956), and its exploration of the ambiguous class position of white-collar workers, this chapter tracks themes of both labor and management in Ashbery’s experimental second book, The Tennis Court Oath. In this book the standpoint of the earlier poem gives way to an explosion of shifting voices as Ashbery’s distinctive use of free indirect discourse and other techniques of point of view registers the contemporary breakdown in labor relations and the crisis for established modes of management. In Ashbery’s mature style of the 1970s, this chaotic play of voices yields to a comparatively measured technology of point of view, which reflects the new modes of management that followed the crises of the 1960s and 1970s.

Keywords:   John Ashbery, white-collar work, free indirect discourse, management

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